HALL COUNTY - The beach at River Forks Park and Campground is closed until further notice due to high levels of E. coli bacteria in the water.
Mike Little, director of Hall County Parks and Leisure, said Gainesville Water Resources tests the water at the beach weekly and a test returned high levels of the bacteria on Friday. Little said geese are likely to blame.
Brian Wiley, environmental services manager with Gainesville Water Resources, said the highest amount of E. coli still considered safe is 126 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters. The sample at River Forks, which was taken Thursday, returned 550 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters.
A test earlier this week had showed higher than usual levels, so the county monitored the situation, Little said.
Little said the water will be tested again on Monday, and the county will make a decision about when the beach could be reopened. Until then, there is not much that can be done to clean the water, but the beach needs to be closed as a precaution, Little said.
“We’ll let nature take its course, and we’ll test again in the next week and hopefully numbers will go back down to a safe level,” he said.
Dale Caldwell, headwaters director with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said that while caution is warranted, the situation should not raise false alarm.
“I don’t think it’s a situation that warrants a big scare, and I would encourage the community to keep in mind that there is E. coli all over the landscape of the watershed, and usually with really high E. coli levels, we see those as a result of stormwater runoff,” Caldwell said.
River Forks Park is at 3500 Keith Bridge Road in Gainesville.